Early childhood teachers are hard to find. Oakland schools have a plan to ‘grow their own’

Once a week on Wednesday afternoons, Berkeley City College professor Joya Chavarin travels to Oakland High School to teach a class of 11th and 12th grade students all about child growth and development—a college-level course. 

It’s a subject that fascinates many of the students, who pepper Chavarin with questions about why their toddler cousin likes to bite or how babies learn multiple languages. The students are part of a new pre-apprenticeship program in Oakland Unified School District, training for careers in early childhood education—which generally refers to schooling within the first 8 years of life—a field that has struggled in recent years to attract teachers.

On a recent Wednesday, Chavarin emphasized to her students—who, in the summer, will complete an internship in the field—how critical it is to have a positive attitude when working with toddlers and young children who are at a crucial age for development. Throughout the lesson, she explained how what they were learning would apply to their future internships at a preschool or daycare.

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